The Story So Far:
In late July selected members of the United Left Scotland (ULS) and a considerable number of non-members of the ULS received an e-mail from email@example.com (a close imitation of the actual ULS e-mail address).
Although the e-mail had not been sent out by the ULS, it was headed “United Left Scotland Meeting” and was signed off as “United Left Scotland”. The e-mail invited its recipients to a meeting to be held in Glasgow on 27th August.
At the same time Unite Scottish full-timers were instructed by the Scottish Regional Secretary to a) attend the meeting of 27th August; b) mobilise members in their sectors for the meeting.
The meeting went ahead despite the chair of the United Left at national level advocating that it be called off. 14 Unite full-timers attended the meeting. The ratio of full-timers to members at the meeting was around one to six.
At the meeting itself Mark Lyon (Unite Executive Council vice-chair and International Transport Workers Federation full-timer) regaled attendees with horror stories about the alleged iniquities of the ULS, each of which was as lacking in substance as the next.
In the course of his ramblings Lyon denied all knowledge of the e-mail which had been sent out inviting people to the meeting.
Announced by a bogus e-mail; falsely described as a “ULS” meeting; invites sent only to selected ULS members and non-members; opposed by the national chair of the United Left; and mobilised for by full-timers – only in the fevered imagination of a latter-day Baron Munchausen could the meeting be regarded as anything other than a sham, organised by charlatans for the purpose of wrecking the ULS.
Now Read On to Learn of Baron Mark Munchausen’s Latest Whacky Escapades:
At the end of last week Mark Lyon issued an e-mail to Unite members he believed had bought into his fantasy. The e-mail he sent out came from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whoops! That’s the e-mail address which the Baron had denied all knowledge of at the 27th August meeting!
The e-mail proclaimed the existence of an organisation called “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS), announced two PULS candidates for the Scottish territorial seats in next year’s Executive Committee elections, and declared that Mark Lyon would be running “an amazing campaign” (sic) for PULS candidates.
Lyon’s e-mail showed up the non-democratic, non-inclusive and top-down nature of PULS itself.
There had been no members’ meetings to decide on the creation or name of a new organisation, to select candidates for the Executive Committee elections, or to decide that Mark Lyon should be in charge of an election campaign.
Although Lyon’s e-mail admitted that “having a meeting would be ideal”, it continued: “It is unlikely we will be able to have a general meeting before the end of the year.”
But one of Lyon’s criticisms of the ULS was that its meetings were supposedly too irregular and its members supposedly excluded from decision-making.
This e-mail was small beer compared with another e-mail and attachment circulated by Lyon earlier this week on the national United Left e-mail group.
Lyon’s three thousand words of delirium read like a latter-day version of “The Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”
Or, more aptly, like a later edition of the same work: “The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed, Containing Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures … Also, An Account of a Voyage into the Moon and Dog-Star”.
The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed:
A blow-by-blow rebuttal of the Baron’s fantasies would be nearly as tedious as reading the three thousand words of dreary prose in which they are couched. But some prime examples should suffice:
“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not forwarding new members’ details to the national list.” Fact: PULS has been asked by national and Scottish United Left office-bearers to forward names on the PULS address list. It has simply refused to do so.
(In fact, Lyon’s own record of the decisions taken by the sham ‘’ULS’ meeting of 27th August includes the action: “To inform national UL of new members welcomed to our organisation.” Lyon has refused to do what his own meeting instructed him to do!)
“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … opening our meetings to everyone.” Fact: A whole raft of ULS members were not informed of, and thereby excluded from, the sham ‘ULS’ meeting of 27th August. And since 27th August PULS has not even had a meeting.
“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … honouring the agreements reached with the help of Martin (ULS national chair).” Fact: PULS agreed with the ULS national chair that it would pass on the e-mail addresses of its ‘members’, but has failed to do so. (See above.)
“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not requesting seats on the United Left national co-ordination committee.” Fact: United Left national supporters’ meetings and national co-ordinators meetings have recognised the ULS as the only body in Scotland entitled to send delegates to the national co-ordinators committee.
“The vast majority of comrades in Scotland are not supportive of the minority ULS grouping.” Fact: Whenever there were differences of opinion in debates and discussions in the ULS, Mark Lyon and his followers lost the argument. The most obvious example: Their defence of Agnes Tolmie’s conduct and attacks on Unite Executive Council decisions.
(And if the ULS has only minority support but PULS has the support of the majority of ULS members, why did the inner circle which runs PULS walk away from the ULS? Answer: They walked away because they lost the arguments and were consistently in a minority.)
“Instead of attending our meeting of 27th August, [a member of the ULS] led a group of people in the street giving out offensive and insulting flyers discouraging people from attending.” Fact: The flyer did no more than point out that the meeting had not been convened by the ULS, quoted concerns about the meeting expressed by the United Left national chair, and explained to its attendees how to join the ULS. No-one complained about it.
“Our United Left Scotland candidates were finalised this week as Eddie Cassidy and Ann Crozier.” Fact: Eddie Cassidy is not a member of the ULS. And while Ann Crozier is a member of the ULS, until the end of last week the second PULS candidate was to have been Linda Pollock – also not a member of the ULS.
“Over 60 people from both ‘groups’ in Scotland agreed to run four recognised candidates at a meeting in Edinburgh on 12th November. It was agreed by everyone that we would run four recognised candidates.” Fact: This was not agreed by anyone. The 12th November meeting was NOT a decision-making meeting. No vote was taken on the proposal for four candidates.
The only person to advocate four candidates for the two Scottish territorial seats was Mark Lyon. And that sums up the essence of Baron Mark Munchausen: He substitutes his own fantasies for reality, and hopes that if he exudes sufficient bluff and bluster then no-one will notice how detached from reality he now is.
Readers may remember the incident a week or so ago when Fran Cowling, the NUS lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representative, said that she would not share a stage with Peter Tatchell, whom she described as “racist” and “transphobic”. The row was covered in some detail by Comrade Coatesy here, and in the Guardian here.
Tatchell, a long standing campaigner for gay rights and human rights more generally, quite understandably, decided to mount a public defence of his good name against these outrageous slurs. As a result of doing so, he was denounced yet again, in this hysterical Open Letter – which includes the truly Orwellian charge of Tatchell referring to a “confidential email chain” that had been forwarded to him “without permission”, thus apparently making Tachell’s accuser the true ‘victim’ of this story!
The signatories include not just the usual NUS suspects and their petty bourgeois and authoritarian friends in academia, but shamefully, the editor of the anarchist Freedom News has signed, too.
It’s a depressing read, but serious in its way, as an example of the anti-free speech, authoritarian logic of extreme identity politics and the hysteria it can induce.
Note, in particular, this paragraph:
“Tatchell has a long record of urging that public platforms be denied members of ethnic and religious groups, especially Muslims. He has called for banning so-called “Islamist” speakers from Universities. He has even demanded mosques apologise “for hosting homophobic hate preachers” and give “assurances that they will not host them again.” Tatchell claims the right to decide who qualifies as a “homophobic hate preacher”; what counts is not inciting violence or any tangible threats to LGBT Londoners, but rather simply expressing religious opinions about homosexual acts. The peculiar urgency with which Tatchell targets Muslims lends credibility to the charge of racial insensitivity.”
So, at some point, it has apparently become acceptable for supposed leftwingers to consider speaker tours for homophobic bigots to be a matter of indifference, and that it is “racially insensitive” for LGBT rights campaigners to object to people expressing “religious opinions about homosexual acts“. Most decent lefties (and liberals) will find this euphemistic description of far-right hate preachers pretty sickening. Now, some might disagree with Tatchell on minor tactical issues of precisely how he approaches this, but my gut response, when ‘lefties’ tell gay rights campaigners to shut up about organised far-right bigotry is: “fuck off”.
Also: “The particular urgency with which Tatchell targets Muslims“? Well – which Muslims? All of them? An attack on a far-right preacher who thinks all gay people are animals is an attack on all Muslims? Isn’t it “racially insensitive” to identify all Muslims with the hard-right ideologues that Tatchell feels “urgent” about?
What a wretched, hypocritical shower these self-righteous NUS authoritarians and their academic friends, are!
I thought this was satire at first: specifically, an exercise in reductio ad absurdum directed against identity politics. But, depressingly, it isn’t. This is what lies behind the widely-ridiculed NUS Women’s Conference decision to replace conventional applause after speeches with so-called “jazz hands”:
From Gay Star News :
UK students’ union passes policy to stop white gay men acting like black women
UK’s National Union of Students has passed a policy to stop gay men appropriating black female culture.Delegates at the Women’s Conference today, many of them self-identified feminists, have passed plenty of motions.Just one of them was ensuring everyone at the conference understood that some behaviors were damaging.On Twitter, they announced: ‘Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping as it’s triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!’
A later motion passed was 503: ‘Dear White Gay Men: Stop Approprirating [sic] Black Women’. Put forward by the NUS LGBT Committee, they believe the appropriation of black women by white gay men is prevalent within the LGBTI scene and community. ‘This may be manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to black women. White gay men may often assert that they are “strong black women” or have an “inner black woman”,’ they said.
‘White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege. ‘They claimed the appropriation is ‘unacceptable and must be addressed’. Passing the motion, they agreed to eradicate the appropriation of black women by white gay men and to raise awareness of the issue.
A second motion passed was the banning of cross-dressing or drag as it could be offensive to trans women: ‘To issue a statement condemning the use of crossdressing as a mode of fancy dress,’ they pledged.
‘To encourage unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use cross-dressing as a mode of fancy dress’.
This ruling was given an exclusion to queer students who want to use cross-dressing in their everyday lives as a mode of expression and to those who want to cross-play by flipping the gender of a fictional character in fancy dress.
A NUS spokeswoman told Gay Star News: ‘We’re a democratic society, and if members voted for it, these are our policies’.
Several have mocked the policies online, with the New Statesman calling into question the second motion for being ‘remarkably conservative’ for a group ‘otherwise so much at pains to stress the variety and fluidity of gender’.
Others on social media also questioned the first, saying inspiration for the slang like ‘shade’ and ‘spill the T’ was taken from the underground drag culture in the 70s and 80s, Paris is Burning and modern shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
I was going to put a question-mark at the end of that headline, but on reflection decided not to. I think we can be unequivocal about this.
When I was a callow young Trotskyist and James P. Cannon fan, older, more experienced comrades told me that Cannon’s organisation, the American SWP (no relation to the Brit group of the same name) had gone off the rails very badly in the 1950’s, when Cannon began to take a back seat and handed the reins over to lesser figures like Joseph Hansen. Evidence of this petty bourgeois degeneration, I was told, was a ludicrous faction fight over the question of women’s cosmetics that threatened to tear the SWP apart. In the end, good ol’ James P. came out of semi-retirement to bang heads together and tell Hansen and the comrades to get a grip and stop arguing about such irrelevant nonsense. Anyway, that’s how I remember being told about it.
As you can imagine, I never (until now) took the trouble to investigate the matter in any detail, but if you’re interested, quite a good account is given here, and you can even read some of the contemporaneous internal documents here, if you scroll down to No. A-23, October 1954. On the other hand, like myself when I was first told about the Great Cosmetics Faction Fight (GCFF), you may feel that life’s too short…
The point being, that I’ve always carried round in the back of my mind a vague recollection of the GCFF as a prime example of petty bourgeois leftist irrelevance, and probably the most ridiculous and laughable left-group factional dispute of all time.
The recent row within the International Socialist Network, resulting in the resignations of some of its most prominent members, makes the SWP’s GCFF look quite down to earth and sensible. If you ever wanted an example of why serious, socialist-inclined working class people all too often regard the far left as a bunch of irrelevant, posturing tossers, this is it. Don’t ask me what it’s all about, or what “race play” is. Comrade Coatesy gives some helpful background here and here. More detail for the serious connoisseur (aka “more discerning customer” wink, wink, reaching under the counter) here and here.
I’ll simply add, for now, that this preposterous business does appear to be genuine (rather than, as some might reasonably suspect, an exercise in sitautionist performance art and/or anti-left political satire) and is also one of those rather pleasing situations in which no-one in their right mind cares who wins: both sides are unspeakably awful self-righteous jerks. Actually, the ISN majority strike me as, if anything, even worse than Seymour, Miéville and their friend “Magpie” – if that’s possible. Still, it’s hard not to endulge in just a little schadenfreude at the discomfiture of Richard “Partially Contingent” Seymour, a character who’s made a minor career out of sub-Althussarian pretentiousness and “anathematising” others on the left for their real or imagined transgressions against “intersectionality“, and now falls victim to it himself.
Those who live by intersectionality, die by intersectionality.
Or, as Seymour himself put it in his seminal postgraduate thesis Patriarchy and the capitalist state:
“My suggestion is that as an analytic, patriarchy must be treated as one type of the more general phenomena of gender projects which in certain conjunctures form gender formations. What is a gender formation? I am drawing a direct analogy with Omi and Winant’s conception of racial formations, which comprises “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed … historically situated projects in which human bodies and social structures are represented and organized.” This is connected “to the evolution of hegemony, the way in which society is organized and ruled,” in the sense that racial projects are linked up with wider repertoires of hegemonic practices, either enabling or disrupting the formation of broad ruling or resistant alliances. A gender formation would thus be a ’sociohistorical process’ in which gender categories are ‘created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed’ through the interplay and struggle of rival gender projects. From my perspective, this has the advantage of grasping the relational, partially contingent and partially representational nature of gendered forms of power, and providing a means by which patriarchy can indeed be grasped in relation to historical materialism.”
I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
On St Patrick’s Day, we bring you perhaps the most bizarre lyric ever sung by Louis Armstrong: “I was born in Ireland (Ha, Ha)”…
Louis Armstrong And His Hot Five, November 1926: Irish Black Bottom
Louis’s tireless biographer Ricky Riccardi writes:
Admittedly, this is not songwriting as its finest but as a novelty, it’s good fun. The “black bottom” was a popular dance of the 1920s so this tune humorously pretends that it’s also taken Ireland by storm. If Louis had to record something so silly in the 1950s, critics would scream at the producers for forcing it on him. But “Irish Black Bottom” was written by the aforementioned Percy Venable so more than likely, it was a staple of Louis’s act at the Sunset. And can’t you imagine Louis bringing down the house with that vocal? That “ha, ha” he gives after singing “And I was born in Ireland,” breaks me up every time. I can only imagine what it did to the audiences who heard him do it live.
The song begins with the funny sound of Louis and his Hot Five swinging through a sample of the Irish classic “Where the River Shannon Flows” before Louis swings out with the main melody, which is predominantly in a minor mode until the end. Louis’s lead sounds great and Dodds is bouncing around as usual but trombonist Hy Clark, a substitute for Kid Ory, sounds hesitant and doesn’t add much. After a chorus and an interlude by pianist Lil Armstrong, Louis takes the vocal. If you can’t make it out, here’s what he says:
All you heard for years in Ireland,
was the “Wearin’ Of The Green”,
but the biggest change that’s come in Ireland
I have ever seen.
All the laddies and the cooies
laid aside their Irish reels,
and I was born in Ireland
(Ha, Ha), so imagine how I feels.
Now Ireland’s gone Black Bottom crazy,
see them dance,
you ought to see them dance.
Folks supposed to be related, even dance,
I mean they dance.
They play that strain,
works right on their brain.
Now it goes Black Bottom,
a new rhythm’s drivin’ the folks insane.
I hand you no Blarney, when I say
that song really goes,
and they put it over with a wow,
I mean now.
All over Ireland
you can see the people dancin’ it,
’cause Ireland’s gone Black Bottom crazy now
I don’t know how you can’t get swept up in that offering. Armstrong doesn’t so much sing it as shout it, or talk it, but his spirit sure gets the message across (though sometimes, he’s so far from the written melody, it sounds like he’s singing a different song on top of Lil’s chording on the piano). After the vocal, Clark and Dodds take forgettable short solos and breaks before Louis carries the troops home with brio. Louis’s lip trill towards the end is particularly violent and right before his closing breaks, he dips into his bag for a favorite phrases, one that ended both “You’re Next” and “Big Fat Ma and Skinny Pa.” The concluding break is so perfect in its phrasing and choice of notes that I believe it might have already been set in stone by Pops during his live performances of the tune at the Sunset. Either way, that’s no reason to criticize him; it’s a perfect ending and puts an emphatic stamp on a very entertaining record.
That’s all for now. Have a happy St. Patrick’s day and don’t forget to mix in a little Louis with your Guiness. I hand you no blarney, it’s a great combination…
The SWP crisis, caused by their leadership’s dreadful mishandling of rape allegations against “Comrade Delta,” has now reached Youtube, thanks to a dissident young comrade (who is, it has to be said, a terrible singer):
Meanwhile, here is The Leadership’s response to the allegations and criticism…
“Thin and tense, his head with its pointed features crouching between his shoulders as though emerging from its burrow into a dangerous world, his eyes as cold and watchful as those of a pike in the reeds. Around this thin, heron-like figure a whole comic tradition of disaster then descended” – George Melly on Jim Godbolt
Above: Godbolt (2nd right) with old jazz cronies including Coleridge Goode (far left)
I know that as a general rule obituaries are not supposed to be amusing, but I have to admit to having chuckled at the Telegraph‘s send-off for Jim Godbolt, the jazz writer, jazz historian and one-time agent/manager for some leading British jazz bands. Godbolt was a legendary curmudgeon who, one suspects, rather played up to his reputation – at least in his later years. The piece notes that one of Godbolt’s ventures was, for a while, writing obituaries for the Telegraph: I wonder if it’s possible that he wrote, and then ‘banked,’ this one himself..?
Jim Godbolt, who has died aged 90, devoted 70 years to jazz as a band manager, booking agent, journalist and historian.
Though he played no instrument and periodically found himself forced to take work in other fields, he was always ready to serve the music he loved in any capacity and for little money. But an ungracious manner, beginning with the way he snapped “Jim Godbolt” down the telephone, did not win him friends, although there were times when he could inspire a certain astonished affection.
Every time he was ignored, slighted or sworn at, the offence was carefully remembered, to be grimly repeated in his memoir, ‘All This and 10%’. There were the regular misspellings of his name — as Goodolt, Godlio, Godolt, Goabit or Goldblatt — and the occasion on which he was told that he was not paranoid, as paranoia would have meant him imagining that people were trying to avoid him. It was not his imagination.
George Melly left a striking description of Godbolt: “Thin and tense, his head with its pointed features crouching between his shoulders as though emerging from its burrow into a dangerous world, his eyes as cold and watchful as those of a pike in the reeds. Around this thin, heron-like figure a whole comic tradition of disaster then descended.”
Godbolt was under no illusions about his charms. When the libel lawyer nervously reading ‘All This’ wanted to eliminate a reference to a Len Bloggs, “a snarling anti-social inverted snob with a chip on his shoulder” , Godbolt pointed out that it was a portrait of himself.
James Godbolt was born in Wandsworth, south London, on October 5 1922. He went to Central School, Sidcup, where he failed to distinguish himself, then became an office boy with the stockbrokers Evans Gordon and Sandeman Clark. At 18 he left to earn £5 a week as a timekeeper on a building site and joined the No 1 Rhythm Club at Sidcup, Kent, before being called up by the Royal Navy to serve in armed trawlers in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
On leave in Cape Town, his appetite for jazz was further whetted when he bought 150 records from a hardware shop at one shilling each. He returned home to become manager of George Webb’s Dixielanders, which aspired to the authentic New Orleans style.
When the band collapsed with the withdrawal of the key members Humphrey Lyttelton and Wally Fawkes, Godbolt became a salesman for a signwriting firm, then an agricultural worker. Next he edited Jazz Illustrated, notable for its misprints before it folded after eight issues.
Although jazz at that time was rent by a bitter civil war between “trad” and modernist players, Godbolt steered clear of faction. He became a booker for the modernist Johnny Dankworth Seven and the traditionalist Graeme Bell Australian Jazz Band; protected the American guitarist Lonnie Johnson from fans on one provincial tour, and on another tried to keep the trombonist Dickie Wells sober. He also took on the management of the chaotic, hard-drinking Mick Mulligan band, worked for Lyttelton, toured Sweden with Bruce Turner’s Jump Band and ran a jazz club above the Six Bells at Chelsea. An enthusiastic cricketer, he was a member of The Ravers, which claimed to be the world’s only jazzmen’s cricket XI.
When pop music took centre stage in the 1960s, Godbolt was making his mark as agent/manager of The Swinging Blue Jeans during the period of their hit Hippy Hippy Shake. He managed to conceal his lack of enthusiasm for the new music when interviewed by Melody Maker, but when he went on to work for a large booking organisation his heart was not in it.
Taking a flat five floors up in a building without a lift near Hampstead Heath, he started out as a freelance journalist to earn the slimmest pickings. Eventually he was forced to work as a cleaner at the Savoy hotel and as an electricity meter reader, which left him with an aversion to dogs.
When his memoir was published in 1976, it sold only 400 copies. But two subsequent editions fared better, and Godbolt the author found himself in demand to review books and appear on radio programmes. Ever his own worst enemy, however, he was indignant to discover that those interviewed on Woman’s Hour were not paid; indeed, he was so indignant that he ended up being neither interviewed nor paid.
Another offer was writing obituaries for The Daily Telegraph. He became a frequent contributor, and could produce facts that could never be found elsewhere. Some members of the obituaries desk, however, were exasperated at being asked to sort out his prose and put up with his surly replies to queries. One of his more unusual submissions was two versions of the band leader Cab Calloway; one in standard English, the other in hepcat’s argot. Eventually an argument about the editing of his obituary of his brother, who kept a pub, led to the appointment of a more obliging wordsmith.
Goldbolt also wrote a two-volume History of Jazz in Britain (1984 and 1986), which addressed not only musicians but also critics, promoters, discographers and fans . When a second edition was published in 2005 it was accompanied by a four-disc set of 100 numbers culled from his personal collection. Godbolt’s last work, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Farrago (2007), drew on his recollections of editing the magazine Jazz at Ronnie Scott’s, which he had produced at the saxophonist’s club in Gerrard Street for 26 years.
Jim Godbolt knew that he possessed an unrivalled knowledge of British jazz. Those who knew him, however, will remember him as a character who could have stepped from the pages of Dickens.
He was unmarried.
Jim Godbolt, born October 5 1922, died January 10 2013
Time for a follow-up to the extraordinary animated film Belleville Rendez-vouz, this time featuring a geeky Brit hero with Paul Weller-style sideburns?
Below, the trailer for the film, called Les Triplettes de Belleville when first released (2003) in France:
James Joyce: all day on Radio 4